With the rise of the holistic approach to emotional well being, mindfulness took a spot on everyone’s heart. But not all people are keen to bend-over-backwards in Bakasana pose, or sitting still for 2 hours plus in the tranquillity of meditation. For those who find it hard to release your emotional tension, but don’t have all the time in the world and the focus of Buddha to do the standard practice in mindfulness, you may want to try art therapy.
Art therapy focuses on the creative process to express emotions and is a therapeutic method rooted in the idea of artistic expression. With the supervision of an art therapist, this method makes it possible to translate the nonverbal messages often found in artwork, which should lead to a better understanding of one’s feelings and behaviour.
By collecting this information, the people who participate in art therapy can move on to resolve more in-depth issues by translating those hidden messages in their arts. In other words, those who participate in art therapy may examine the subconscious and emotional whispers in their art.
Meet Kemala Putri
We may call her Mala for short. She is the practitioner and facilitator for this unique art therapy approach. Initially, this Singapore-based piano teacher used art therapy to channel her painful emotions and trauma. Enduring failed IVF attempts drove Mala and her husband into overwhelming and heart-wrenching grief. Adding insult to injury, Mala teaches piano lessons for kids for over five years. Seeing young children every day made it even more painful for her to work. In 2018, she decided to some time off from teaching and trying to recover from her grief.
Mala tried various methods to get her out of grief, from counselling to meditation, but none of those approaches seemed to fit. Mala found journaling and music as the best routes to mindfulness and a sense of calm.
Now, she helps others to overcome their fear and emotional instability through art. She has already been an art therapy practitioner for years.
Mala on one of her Musical Journaling session.
Mala’s art therapy focuses on training the participants on how to express their emotions through musical journaling. During the course, participants will be taught to understand the process of emotional journaling and to understand the layers of rhythm and melody in songs.
What exactly are we doing in musical journaling?
First, we meditate.
All the participants will be asked to meditate when they first reach the studio, and this will be followed by breathing exercises.
Participants will then be introduced to five different songs that have been carefully curated by Mala. Each song represents emotions such as sadness, rage/anger, fear/anxiety, calm, and happiness.
The melodic ambience plays a big part in stimulating the listener’s emotions. Mala will pick five different songs with different layers such as pitch, rhythm, tempo, timbre, texture, dynamics, structure, and melody to stimulate the hearing and feelings of all the participants.
Participants will listen to each song and try to describe it, based on their interpretations, in their writing. It can be a fictional narrative or a particularly personal story. At the end of the session, participants will be encouraged to share their writing.
Participants then will be expected to narrate a story systematically and in a well-structured manner, applying the fundamental journalism problem-solving 6 Ws ( Who, What, When, Why, Where, and How) within a two-hour session.
Participants then will be expected to narrate a story systematically.
In this session as well, while narrating in their journal, participants will be stimulated through the different melodic ambience. Mala will be asking all the participants to activate all five senses; vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch throughout the narrative journaling and melody hearing.
Through pen and paper, the troubled mind might heal, and the wounded soul might conceal.
The melodic ambience stimulation plays a big part to play with the listener’s emotions. Mala will pick five different songs with different layers like pitch, rhythm, tempo, timbre, texture, dynamics, structure, and melody to stimulate the hearing and the feeling of all the participants.
In the last session, participants will express their sensations throughout the class by sharing their output in their writing. The session will be finished by dancing/moving through the melody to explore each layer of sounds.
Through creating self-expression with musical journaling, as a part of art therapy, Mala got better within a year. Musical journaling helped her to channel her emotions into something beautiful. This is what motivates her to help others learn why it is necessary to reroute emotions the right way with what she knows best: through music and art.
With art therapy through techniques such as singing, poem/prose writing, painting, doodling, colouring, picture/colour collage, sculpting, or any other art platform, art therapy can help oneself express emotions artistically.
Art therapy can develop a healthy coping mechanism to obstacles and cultivate emotional resilience and the ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises without lasting difficulties.
A mere scratch of ink in a scrabbling paper may convey the untold words. A splash of colour on a blank canvas may interpret indescribable emotions that were restrained in the subconscious mind.
- A story about Kemala Putri, a practitioner and facilitator for Art Therapy for kids and adults. She currently based in Singapore. Interviewed and written by Apsy Soerjodibroto for #PerempuanSeries and the People of Asia.
(Photos courtesy of Ade Firmansyah)